JHI Working Groups in 2022-2023

June 17, 2022 by Sonja Johnston

During each academic year, the JHI sponsors interdisciplinary working groups composed of graduate students and faculty who conduct research or engage in other scholarly exchange. The groups for 2022-23 are:

Deparochializing the Political Theory Curriculum (new)*

  • Matthew Walton, A&S Political Science
  • Arturo Chang Quiroz, UTM Political Science
  • Devin Ouelette, Ph.D. candidate, Political Science
  • Melissa Williams, A&S Political Science

This Working Group seeks to expand and deparochialize existing curricular teachings in the field of political science through interdisciplinary engagement and collaboration. We are working to de-center Euro-American political thought as a defining frame for our field, and to re-center the political ideas of actors and thinkers from other parts of the world who have hitherto been overlooked. We will read and discuss political thought from Buddhist, Confucian, Chinese, Islamic, Hindu, Indian, Afro-Caribbean, Black, African, Japanese, Latinx, ancient Egyptian, Dalit, Confucian, and Indigenous thinkers. Readings will alternate with discussions about a specific pedagogical focus, examining ways to incorporate non-western texts or non-textual materials into core undergraduate teaching.

Elite Africa: Creativity, Expertise and Power (new)

  • Antoinette Handley, A&S Political Science
  • Dickson Eyoh, New College African Studies
  • Sean Hawkins, A&S History
  • Melissa Levin, New College African Studies
  • Nakanyike Musisi, A&S History

Both popular and academic treatments of Africa tend to feature those actors commonly regarded as “weak,” small or poor. There is a curious squeamishness about focusing in a sustained way on those who are most powerful, effective and influential on the continent—its elites. Alternatively, where elites are considered, they tend to be treated as uniformly corrupt and self-serving. These approaches ignore the burgeoning ranks of globally-renowned artists, prominent intellectuals, innovative businesspeople, accomplished scientists and many others who are flourishing on the continent and, in the process, transforming both Africa and the global fields within which they work. These approaches are due for a reassessment. This group seeks to 1) challenge the narrow and often racist popular and scholarly understandings of elites in Africa as comprising only a venal comprador class; 2) map the dynamics of elite formation in Africa; and 3) theorize power as a process that is transformed by this dynamic, rather than simply as an object to be captured.

Global Marxism: Rethinking Marxist Thought in a Counter-Revolutionary Age (new)

  • Kristin Plys, UTM Sociology
  • Jasmine Chorley Foster, Ph.D. cand., Political Science
  • Priyansh, Ph.D. student, Kinesiology & Physical Education

This group connects scholars across the (broadly-defined) Marxist tradition, including anti-fascism, anti-imperialism, critical race theory, and cultural studies. Our members’ areas of expertise and inquiry include Hindu nationalism in India, the current economic crisis in Sri Lanka, WWI and political thought, Yiddish culture in the Soviet Union, among others. These themes carry historical import as well as immense significance today, as seen in many urgent issues pertaining to war, gender and reproductive justice, and the resurgent far-right.

Historical Ontologies (new)

  • Adrien Zakar, A&S Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations and History & Philosophy of Science & Technology
  • Natalie Rothman, UTSC Historical & Cultural Studies

This group provides a hub for interdisciplinary inquiry in the growing field of digital scholarship. It gathers a network of UofT faculty, postdocs, and students interested in historical ontologies, namely the study of how concepts and objects gain meaning relationally, through evolving linguistic forms which materialize patterns and styles of reasoning. This area of knowledge not only lends itself particularly well to digital inquiry, but also lays bare many of the epistemological and methodological challenges in humanists’ growing engagements with data science. Our meetings facilitate structured, trans-disciplinary, and intergenerational conversations on the themes of representation, translation, equity, accessibility, surveillance, discoverability, and knowability. We are exploring how we can leverage digital tools not simply to critique imperialist and Eurocentric ontologies, but to recentre subaltern, racialized, Indigenous, transnational and/or otherwise non-Eurocentric and/or non-hegemonic ways of knowing as part of scholarly historical ontology building practices. Among the questions guiding our interactions as a group are: How can we overcome the challenges we face as we create, store, manipulate, visualize and learn from data? How can we think critically about the ways in which our digital research projects and teams practice forms of world-making that ground data-driven insights in real-world complexity? How can we draw on this process to bring the complexity of power and mediation back to the surface of humanistic inquiry? How do we nurture sustainable, reflexive, and critical data practices?

Jesuit History Research Group (renewal)

  • Andreas Motsch, FAS French
  • Jean-Olivier Richard, SMC Christianity & Culture
  • John Meehan, SJ; Director, Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History, Trinity College
  • Fr. Thomas Worcester,SJ; President, Regis College

Toronto Jesuit History Research Group (TJHRG) is an interdisciplinary hub for Jesuit studies. In 2022-2023 we will focus on informal round tables, talks with respondents, moderated conversations with guests, and, circumstances allowing, workshops, film screenings, and field trips. Possible topics include the Jesuits’ role in the TRC; the intersection of Jesuit and native spirituality (syncretism, colonisation of the imaginary); Jesuit missions in China, Japan, and modern film; Jesuit contributions to cartography, theatre, and Baroque art.

Mapping Languages: Working with Kirundi, Kinyawanda, and Tshiluba Speakers in the GTA (new)

  • Suzi Lima, A&S Linguistics
  • Fatima Hamlaoui, A&S French
  • Juvénal Ndayiragije, UTSC Language Studies

The aim of this working group is to bring together researchers from different subdisciplines of linguistics and scholars from the Humanities and Social Sciences with members of the Bantu speaking African diaspora living in Toronto and the GTA. Through meetings with representatives of community organizations from a selected group of countries from the African Great Lakes region, that is, Burundi, The Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, our goal is to establish long-lasting and meaningful partnerships and to lay the basis for establishing the University of Toronto as a local center for the study of Bantu languages as they are spoken in the diaspora. Our goal is to map communities of speakers of three African languages (Niger-Congo, Bantu) spoken in the GTA, that is, Kirundi, Kinyarwanda and Tshiluba, and eventually to conduct sociolinguistic surveys with members of these communities.

Medieval World Drama (new)

  • Matt Sergi, A&S English

This group studies medieval plays translated into present-day English from any language other than English. Our readings so far have been translated from premodern Spanish, Welsh, Arabic, Japanese, Cornish, German, Dutch, Hebrew, French, and Provençal. We emphasize access and outreach. Rather than asking members to prepare material outside of meetings, we discover and enact the reading right there, together, assigning parts as we go. Thoughtful, productive discussions of the text emerge naturally from this shared reading experience.

Performance Cultures of the Web (new)

  • Nikki Cesare Schotzko, A&S Drama, Theatre & Performance Studies
  • Douglas Eacho, A&S Drama, Theatre & Performance Studies
  • Ilana Khanin, Ph.D. student, Drama, Theatre & Performance Studies

Performance Cultures of the Web brings together scholars and practitioners whose work spans a range of emerging forms–live-streaming, digital performance, social media, video games, blockchain, virtual reality, artificial intelligence—to explore the complicated networks of performance cultures that shape and subvert the Internet ecosystem. We engage the premise that the current media of Web performance are so interwoven that they must be addressed in conversation. We intend to chart a new constellation of scholarship that draws collegial and intellectual connections across performance studies, media studies, and sociology. What can performance and the performative offer us as a frame for reading these practices? How might performance subvert the accelerating influence of technocapital on creative and daily life on and off the internet?

Public Writing in the Humanities (renewal)

  • Christy Anderson, A&S Art History

This group offers a supportive and critical interdisciplinary space for humanities scholars at various stages of their careers to write, read, and learn together about public writing. In order to support members in building their public writing practice, we host regular writing sessions, focussed skills-based workshops, reading groups, and opportunities to workshop public writing. In 2022-2023, we will invite a new set of guest workshop facilitators to focus on the process of publishing public writing and creative non-fiction. This will include topics such as pitching, working with editors, and long-form writing. Our sessions are scaffolded so that each working group member can see one piece of writing through from idea to pitch over the course of the academic year.

Rethinking Policing, Penality, and Pandemic (renewal)

  • rosalind hampton, OISE Social Justice Education
  • Vannina Sztainbok, independent researcher

This working group studies scholarship, reports, and current events related to policing and penality. We are particularly concerned about and attentive to the lives and concerns of racialized, poor, and street-involved populations in Toronto. Our group also organizes and hosts conversations with and between community organizers and activists, in the spirit of study that aims beyond critique and towards cultivating relationships, solidarity, and alternatives to carcerality. In 2022-2023 our areas of focus will include community-university relations and the role of the university in society; notions of “pandemic” and the contexts and consequences of neoliberal capitalism; notions of “safety” on and around university campuses, particularly for those who are Black, Indigenous, migrant, racialized, queer, trans, disabled, and/ or living in poverty; tensions between and implications of contemporary discourses of public health, public safety, and decolonization; and food sovereignty in and around Toronto.

Stories Kids Tell at Home: Storying Immigrant Students’ Schooling Experiences in Canada (new)

  • Njoki Wane, OISE Social Justice Education
  • Soudeh Oladi Ghadikolaei, OISE Social Justice Education

This group will research the experiences of students in the K-5 grade level in schools across Canada. It will focus on storying post-migrant schooling experiences and bringing into narrative students’ perceptions of belonging, social inclusion, identity, displacement, invisibility and hypervisibility, as well as various experiences of joy. Studying what schooling has done to and for immigrant-background students in K-5 programs in Canada, offers important insights and possibilities for educational research and practice. The group includes a collaboration between the Social Justice Department at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education with the Department of Anthropology and the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto, as well as the Toronto Storytellers Network.

Theatre as Medicine (new)*

  • Larry Switzky, UTM English & Drama
  • Marlene Goldman, UTSC English

The goal of this group is to research and develop a performative theory of medicine by tracing theatre’s historical imbrication with the healing arts and by analyzing how theatrical elements generate and sustain the clinical encounter between doctors and patients. A fundamental tenet of our working group is that patients’ and doctors’ performances cannot be understood in isolation, nor does interpretation happen in only one direction. The contact that occurs between patient and caregiver makes illness an ensemble drama. We will focus on a set of interdisciplinary readings from the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Our group includes scholars in the humanities—primarily in medical humanities, theatre studies, social and aesthetic performance studies, disability studies, and affect studies—and key stakeholders in medicine including clinicians, medical educators, activists, and patients.

Theorizing Social Movements: A View from the Global South (new)*

  • Julie Moreau, A&S Political Science
  • Janine Clark, UTM Political Science

This working group contributes to a larger effort in social movement studies to interrogate these classic theories centred on North America and Europe. How can we revise and reformulate existing theoretical frameworks to reflect the importance of global Southern activism? To what extent do these theories, developed narrowly to understand the protest dynamics of Western liberal democracies, apply to hybrid regimes and illiberal states in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East? How is the increasingly digital and transnational nature of movements forcing a reconsideration of social movements’ geographical emergence and impact? This group will read critically and think creatively about how contemporary social movements in the global South extend our understandings of contentious politics.

Transformative Sustainability Pedagogies (new)

  • Michael Classens, A&S School of the Environment
  • Liat Margolis, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape & Design
  • Nicole Spiegelaar, Trinity College and School of the Environment
  • Hilary Inwood, OISE Curriculum, Teaching & Learning
  • Ellyse Winter, Trinity College and School of the Environment
  • Sarah Urquhart, Ph.D. student, OISE Curriculum, Teaching & Learning
  • Maria Vamvalis, Ph.D. student, OISE Curriculum, Teaching & Learning
  • Matilda Dipieri, M.E.S. student, School of the Environment

This working group examines both the what and the how of teaching sustainability in comprehensive, coordinated and transdisciplinary ways across multiple divisions and units at the University of Toronto. We see exploring transformative pedagogies as a promising way forward by offering learners ways to synthesize cognitive, affective, and embodied forms of learning. Key to this is centering Indigenous worldviews and ‘Land as first teacher’ in sustainability teaching; when combined with transdisciplinary, Land-centred, equity-focused, and place-based education, transformative pedagogy provides opportunities for learning that is relational, community-engaged, justice-forward, and action-oriented. We are dedicated to establishing an interdisciplinary Community of Practice (CoP) for UofT faculty and graduate students interested in critiquing and re-imagining their understanding of sustainability pedagogies in their teaching practice.

Visual Cultures of the Circumpolar North (renewal)

  • Mark Cheetham, A&S Art History
  • Ivana Dizdar, postdoctoral fellow, A&S Art History
  • Isabelle Gapp, postdoctoral fellow, A&S Art History

This group brings together interdisciplinary perspectives on Indigenous, environmental, and settler pasts, presents, and futures around the circumpolar north to examine the complex visual and textual cultures of this region. Our areas of focus include northern landscapes, borders, and environmental histories; settler colonial expeditionary narratives; contemporary and historic militarisation and defence; cinematic and curatorial manifestations of north; and Indigenous arts, modernisms, and cultural heritage across Canada and the wider circumpolar north. We are confronting north-south dialogues and divides to draw attention to the cultural, social, and environmental dynamics between Indigenous communities and settler populations across Alaska, Canada, Greenland, the Nordic countries, and Russia.

*Co-funded by the UTM Office of the Vice-Principal Research